Courtesy Reuters

South Africa - What is to be Done

The October 19 decision of the South African government to continue a policy of total repression of internal dissent all too clearly marks the end of one era in American-South African relations and opens a new and more dangerous period. Among the most ominous attributes of the repressive measures were the arrest of Percy Qoboza, editor of the World, the largest "black" newspaper in South Africa; the banning of Donald Woods, editor of the "white" Daily Dispatch; and the closure of the World itself. The effect of the government's action was to silence some of the major voices of moderation in the Republic. The arrest and then death of Steve Biko under highly suspicious circumstances had already removed another spokesman for a policy of evolutionary change in South African society.

The harsh reaction of South Africa to internal black unrest and ferment should not, however, have engendered the shock and surprise that evidently marked the reaction of the international community. For more than three-quarters of a century, black South Africans have persistently attempted to establish black organizations to importune or confront the government. The consistent reaction of the government has been eventual, often brutal, suppression. Before the turn of the century the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a militant, ably led black American denomination, gave shelter to several black proto-protest groups consisting mainly of members of the tiny emerging black middle class in South Africa. After the creation of the Union of South Africa under British auspices, these nascent groups coalesced into the Native National Congress (later the African National Congress) in 1912. Without suggesting that the analogy is complete, the Congress operated in much the same fashion as the NAACP did in the United States for the same 35- or 40-year period - it begged the white establishment for alleviation of the black condition without suggesting that repercussions would follow a spurning of its pleas. Of course, there were several important differences between the Congress and the NACCP - the NAACP had access

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